For those women who have been lusting after flatter and flatter tummies for all their lives, it’s time to relax and love the healthy, strong body you have. It turns out, having ultra-flat, washboard abs may look great in a bikini, but they actually may not be the healthiest thing for your body. That little pooch below your belly button is completely natural—and good.
Let’s take a look at some numbers. The essential body fat content for women is between 10 and 12 percent. That’s the bare minimum we need to make life possible. Compare that to men’s 2-4 percent and you’ll start to realize how important body fat is for women. When our fat levels dip down closer to 13 percent, as they might if you are pushing for those really flat abs, serious issues in hormonal balance can arise. Why? Believe it or not, that little fat on your stomach actually supports healthy estrogen production.
Just as women with lots of excess fat usually have high estrogen levels, women with low body fat percentages are more at risk for low estrogen levels. That’s because body fat actually stores and releases small amounts of estrogen.
Estrogen, if you hadn’t guessed, is a pretty important hormone. On top of dictating menstrual cycles, estrogen is responsible for keeping cholesterol levels balanced, healthy breast development/maintenance, mood regulation, bone health, skin health and so much more. As women, when our estrogen levels go out of whack, a lot of things can fall out of place.
In general, having too little body fat as a woman can lead to increased bone fragility, decreased immune function and absolute chaos within the reproductive system. Rather than allowing yourself to thrive and be healthy, too little fat causes the body to go into survival mode. If you are not a professional athlete or a bodybuilder with a strong support system to make sure you stay healthy, gunning for a rippling six-pack might not be in your body’s best interests.
If you’ve struggled with a little extra fat on your lower stomach, it’s time to accept and love it instead of trying to squish it into oblivion. It means you are healthy. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go eat a family-size bag of Cheetos. Too much fat, as we all know, isn’t so healthy either. Just practice balance and moderation, and don’t try to force your body into being something it’s not.
Stop listening to marketing and social media feeds that are telling you how you should look. A flatter tummy may not be the best thing for you after all—and it definitely won’t fix all your problems or make you happier. We women need to begin to learn to love and accept the bodies that we have, starting with that little stubborn love pudge below the belly button.